(WESTERVILLE, OH — July 14, 2011) An Ohio incident in which a young Ohio boy fell 40 feet into a hand-dug water well should prompt property owners to identify and make safe improperly secured or abandoned wells, the National Ground Water Association said today.
Typically, accidents in which people fall into wells involve very large diameter hand-dug or bored water wells. Hand-dug wells are a nonexistent methodology in modern water well construction, but they still exist decades after construction. Bored wells of very large diameter are constructed today, typically in regions where groundwater resources are minimal, requiring a larger area to collect water. Bored wells represent less than four percent of the water wells drilled annually in the United States.
NGWA said the risk of falling into a modern water well is low because (1) most water wells today are drilled to a diameter of less than seven inches, (2) the pipe that lines the interior of the well should extend at least 12 inches above the ground, and (3) a sealing cap should be firmly attached to the end of the well pipe rising above the ground.
The Ohio incident points out the need for property owners to do several things.
Those served by a large-diameter hand-dug well should consider replacing it with a deeper, drilled well, according to NGWA. Modern construction can help reduce the risks of a water supply becoming contaminated, or of people and animals falling into the well. At a minimum, in areas where deeper water is unavailable, the property owner should consider upgrading any deficiencies to the surface seal on the existing well to maintain a safe and sanitary seal.
A sheet of plywood, as reportedly used as a well cap for the Ohio hand-dug well, is not an effective pollution barrier or security measure, said NGWA.
A modern well will use a well seal — an arrangement or device used to secure the top of the well casing and provide a watertight seal to prevent contaminated surface water from leaking into the well. This is frequently a sanitary well cap — a cover fitted to the top of a well casing to seal the opening.
In the Ohio incident, the father entered the well to rescue his child, and both emerged safely. NGWA noted, however, that entering a confined space underground can be a lethal mistake. Sometimes hand-dug wells, well pits, and other openings to the Earth have pockets of health-threatening gases or lowered levels of oxygen that can put a person at risk of severe injury or death. Every year in the United States people die from entering confined spaces underground without taking the proper precautions proper precautions.
NGWA urges property owners with hand-dug wells, or any other wells that are not active, to have them permanently decommissioned. A well or borehole that has gone dry, is contaminated, or no longer serves a useful purpose is considered abandoned. Ideally, an abandoned borehole should be decommissioned within 48 hours.
The proper decommissioning of abandoned wells or boreholes is critical to protecting aquifer and groundwater resources, said NGWA. Proper decommissioning should be performed by licensed, registered, or certified water well contractors.
NGWA, a nonprofit organization composed of U.S. and international groundwater professionals — contractors, equipment manufacturers, suppliers, scientists, and engineers — is dedicated to advancing groundwater knowledge. NGWA’s vision is to be the leading groundwater association that advocates the responsible development, management, and use of water.
800 551.7379 (614 898.7791 outside the United States)
8 a.m.-5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday
fax 614 898.7786
PO Box 715435
Columbus, OH 43271-5435
National Ground Water Association
601 Dempsey Rd.
Westerville, OH 43081
(614 898.7791 outside the US)
fax 614 898.7786